Track renovations for harness racing in Shenandoah County on schedule

WOODSTOCK – The remodeling of the track at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds is on schedule and this Saturday the third annual Diesel Day will be held there.

It will be the first event held on the new tractor pull/demolition derby lane, which will be located in the infield of the newly remodeled harness racing track.

The track is being renovated in preparation for Shenandoah Downs, which will bring a series of harness races that will be held at the fairgrounds starting  Sept. 10. The harness races will be held for five weekends this year, and for seven weekends over the next 19 years.

During the weekends racing patrons will be able to view and participate in pari-mutuel wagering for approximately eight to 10 races per day, including races from other parts of the country.

Shenandoah County Fairgrounds General Manager Tom Eshelman said in an interview last week that the tractor pull/demolition derby lane is 600 feet long and 70 feet wide.

“We’re going to be doing truck drags and a show and shine, and truck pulling and that goes on all day long and that will be the first use of the track,” Eshelman said. “Obviously, there’s still going to be a lot of dirt out there and stuff like that. There’s no grass sown yet, but the pulling track – we’ll be breaking it in Saturday.”

Eshelman said that he expects the main work on the harness racing track to be done somewhere between Aug. 1-10.

“I’m pretty confident that all the dirt piles that are out there now will all be gone by August first, and they’ll be applying stone to the track probably the last week of this month, first week of August,” Eshelman said.

The Shenandoah County Fair Association reached a lease agreement with the Virginia Equine Alliance and the Virginia Harness Horseman’s Association to host harness horse racing earlier this year.

The VEA is investing approximately $700,000 into the Shenandoah County Fair Association track and infrastructure. When it’s finished the track should be widened from 45-55 feet to 65 feet. The turns, which were flat, will be banked 6 ½ feet high. World-renowned track consultant Greg Coon is overseeing the upgrade.

Eshelman said that he expects the infrastructure for betting to start arriving the week before the Shenandoah County Fair, which starts Aug. 26. He said that International Sound Corporation has been subcontracted to handle the betting infrastructure.

Eshelman said that most of the feedback he’s heard has been positive. He said that a lot of people just aren’t 100 percent sure of what it is that they’re doing.

“Ultimately the fair is the fair – it’s not going away. This is a remodeling of the track and an investment in our infrastructure by this horseman’s group that it will be leasing our grounds for five weeks this year and for seven weeks for the next 19 years,” Eshelman said. “When those weeks are over with, they’re gone, and we’re still a fairgrounds and we don’t make any money off of that. They’re leasing our grounds just like it was a wedding reception or a demo derby from somebody else.”

Eshelman said he doesn’t think that it will be a huge change for people attending the fair.

“The people that used to park in the infield, which affects maybe 150, maybe 200 people, they’re not going to park in the infield this year,” Eshelman said. “Other than that the average fair-goer is not going to see a major change, except that the midway comes around the turn. The rides will be closer up to us than they normally are. They’re not going to be around the turn. Ultimately, we’re going to have a fair and life’s going to be good.”

Eshelman said he’s excited about some of the new things they will be bringing to the Shenandoah County Fair, including a rodeo on Sept. 2 and a monster truck show on Sept. 3.

“It opens us up to new things,” Eshelman said. “For every person out there that’s sad to see that we’re no longer doing four, five nights of music, now we’re able to bring things in that we’ve never been able to bring before.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com